A great onboarding plan leads to a productive, engaged team. A full 69% of employees are more likely to stay loyal to their company for at least three years if they’ve had a great onboarding experience. 

Why?

  • Employees feel connected with their coworkers.
  • New hires understand the company’s vision and mission.
  • They also know their role and responsibilities.

Virtual onboarding brings new challenges, but the principles remain the same. It’s all about helping people understand your culture and feel like part of your team from day one. Here are some key ways to accomplish that virtually.

Designate support roles.

Assigning staff members to different onboarding roles gives your new hires a well-rounded range of support. It also gives them the chance to build strong relationships with several coworkers. Plus, they gain a deeper understanding of the workplace culture through multiple perspectives. 

Here are a few examples of roles:

  • Peer mentor – this should be a coworker rather than a superior. The new hire may feel more comfortable asking a peer certain questions or reaching out frequently about minor concerns. Plus, this person can model how to perform the specific type of role the new hire is filling.
  • Culture ambassador – this person can help new hires understand workplace culture.
  • Technology liaison – this person can ensure the new hire’s equipment has been delivered and is functioning properly. This role can also involve acclimating the new hire to the platforms used in the workplace.

Assigning multiple roles also helps ensure that no one on your onboarding team feels too overloaded. They can each focus more fully on the topic they know the most about.

Hold virtual meet and greets.

Setting up social gatherings on a virtual platform gives new hires a chance to build a rapport with others. Schedule a virtual happy hour so they can get to know their coworkers in a context that’s not work-related.

Give them chances to meet people with whom they don’t work directly, too. Slack offers a virtual “meet the CEO” session every few weeks, for example. This all fosters workplace cultural immersion and strong relationships.

Set up regular manager check-ins.

New managers should set up daily one-on-ones with their new hires. At these meetings, they should set goals for the first week and objectives for each day. They can also set weekly and monthly goals for the first 90 days. Additionally, they should work with new hires to structure their schedule. As every HR manager knows, strong scheduling and time management are especially important while working remotely. For the same reason, they should hold these meetings at a set time every day. Managers should also check in more briefly at different points throughout the day.

Send a virtual welcome package.

A thoughtful presentation of a gift or even office equipment can make all the difference. One McKinsey employee recounts the memorable way she received her new equipment: “Receiving my technology was amazing. It came in a big, beautiful, blue box with my name and firm identification number on it, and clear instructions and a welcome letter inside.” Your welcome package could include equipment needed for the job as well as extras like a restaurant gift certificate or a favorite food (ask in advance!).

Use quality training videos and other materials.

Visual aids can be a highly useful substitute for in-person training. These materials should include lots of visuals to make them engaging. You can create excellent introductory videos that can be used over and over again. Don’t send them all at once, though—that could cause overwhelm. Instead, send one or two videos before the first day to help the new employee feel more confident and knowledgeable on day one. Then, stagger the rest out over the first week. Peer mentors and others in support roles will reinforce the lessons learned from these materials. 

Lastly, make sure to continue spending time on employee training and relationship-building beyond week one. After the first week, enthusiasm often wanes, but showing you’re invested in their success will keep new hires excited to learn and grow. Following these steps will also help strong relationships to grow organically, which helps ensure that they last.